As loved ones age and need additional support, it can be difficult to trust that their safety is a top priority for those entrusted to provide care. Their safety and wellbeing is of the utmost importance, which may mean you need to take on the responsibility of watching for potential signs of mistreatment.
Nursing homes are common locations of elder abuse and mistreatment. The prevalence of elder abuse is difficult to measure as many victims struggle to report instances of abuse for a variety of reasons. Because some victims may feel intimidated or otherwise unable to discuss their abusive situations, observant and cautious loved ones may be a key line of defense for those in danger.
What constitutes elder abuse?
The mistreatment and exploitation of elderly populations happens in a variety of ways ranging from physical mistreatment to taking advantage of a financial situation. The main categories of mistreatment include:
- Physical abuse
- Mental or psychological abuse
- Social isolation or abandonment
- Neglect of care
- Financial exploitation
- Sexual abuse
Each form of elder abuse comes with its own set of potential risk factors and symptoms. Physical injuries can range from sores and cuts to broken bones and sever bruising which are typically easier to spot for those around them. Psychological changes may indicate other forms of abuse including mental abuse, abandonment and even financial exploitation.
If a loved one exhibits major mood changes, retreats from activities they normally enjoy, refuses basic self-care or shows signs of fearing others, these symptoms may indicate an underlying form of elder abuse.
The challenges of spotting signs of abuse
The more difficult to notice forms of abuse are the ones to watch for more carefully with your aging loved ones. Declining overall physical health and mental capacity can contribute to elder abuse and the lack of reporting such mistreatment. Those in declining health may exhibit symptoms similar to those of abuse and neglect due to factors unrelated to any actual mistreatment.
Some of the most important things a loved one can do for an elderly victim of mistreatment are to talk and listen. Ask why they had a certain reaction, discuss their care and caregivers, listen to their concerns and pay attention to nuanced references to potential neglect or mistreatment.
An aging loved one may not always know how to discuss incidences of abuse, so it's important to stay aware of potential warning signs as their loved one and confidant. Your attention to this issue can make all the difference in the care and treatment of elderly loved ones in your life.